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about 3 hours ago

"Andrzej Duda pays homage to Jewish ‘heroes’ who fought for freedom against Nazi Germany"

  • The 27th Nisan shall be Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, devoted, year after year, to the commemoration of the disaster which the Nazis and their collaborators brought upon the Jewish people and of the acts of heroism and revolt performed in those days.

    Previous pieces in the series
about 10 hours ago

the view from the right:

"by Kevin D. Williamson April 29, 2016 4:00 AM
Israel and the Jewish diaspora make progressive pieties look silly.

Why does the Left hate the Jews?

The Labour party in the United Kingdom is being convulsed at the moment with a public reckoning of the anti-Semitism of some of its most prominent members, including the former mayor of London, “Red” Ken Livingstone, who has just been suspended from the party for arguing that Adolf Hitler was, effectively, a Zionist. He was trying to explain away the anti-Semitic remarks of MP Naz Shah, who suggested that Israel be liquidated and its population forcibly resettled in the United States.

In the United States, the Harvard Law Record went to some lengths to conceal the identity of a law student who attacked a visiting Israeli dignitary as — in the classic anti-Semitic formulation — “smelly.” That student was Husam El-Qoulaq, a Palestinian leftist. The campus Left has, to no one’s surprise, rallied to his defense. Among those defending him were a number of Jewish law students, who insisted that El-Qoulaq couldn’t possibly have known the anti-Semitic history of “smelly Jew” rhetoric, in spite of his having been reared at the world center of such nonsense.

Others insisted that the Harvard case and the Labour cases are — this, too, will be familiar — not at all about anti-Semitism but about anti-Zionism.

RELATED: The Media’s Shameful, Shameless Bias Against Israel

That argument does not stand up to two seconds’ scrutiny, and never has. One of the fundamental stories of history is that people move around and bump into each other. It is true that most of the current Jewish population of Israel descends from people who were not precisely sons of the soil they now inhabit. But then, neither are the so-called Palestinians, who are Arabs. Arabs famously come from Arabia, but they are located all over the world. No one talks about the need to get the Arabs out of Egypt or Libya — or Palestine, for that matter — any more than anybody seriously thinks about returning the Americas to the descendants of the aboriginal population, which, of course, wasn’t aboriginal, either, but merely the first to emigrate. The Irish are descended of people not native to Ireland, as indeed ultimately is every population in the world, including those in the African cradle of humanity.

And it isn’t because the establishment of Israel is, relatively speaking, fresh in the historical memory, and therefore an open wound. Before the end of World War II, there was no Pakistan, and to the extent that there was an “India,” it was a geographical rather than a political term, much like “Palestine.” There was no independent Ireland until the 1920s and no Republic of Ireland until 1948. There was no People’s Republic of China until 1949. There was no Zimbabwe until 1980, no Czech Republic until 1993, and no modern Democratic Republic of the Congo until 1997. Israel is an ancient state compared with geopolitical newcomers such as the 30-odd countries created since 1990.

RELATED: The Israel Double Standard

Yet it is the Jewish state, and the Jewish state alone, that is permanently marked for extermination. No one is throwing a fit about Timor-Leste or Serbia. The old saw about American racial politics was that in the South whites accepted blacks individually but rejected them corporately, whereas in the North it was the opposite, with the Yankees embracing integration and equality in theory while ensuring that they rarely encountered a black American in person. (Senator Bernie Sanders, proud son of diverse Brooklyn, now represents the whitest state in the Union.) And that’s the best that the Left can say for itself: “We don’t hate the Jews individually, just as a nation.”

That’s not much of a defense.

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Adolf Hitler is supposed to have justified his anti-Semitism to Otto Wagener on the grounds that “the Jew is not a socialist.” Neither was the Jew a New Soviet Man, as Josef Stalin’s minions launched their murderous purges with denunciations of “rootless cosmopolitans,” a term of abuse recently revived by partisans of Donald Trump. In the United States, the Jew-haters took the opposite view: that Jews were to be reviled because they were socialists and potential New Soviet Men.

The Jews can be whatever their enemies need them to be.

The Jews can be whatever their enemies need them to be. For Henry Ford and more than a few on the modern left, the Jews are the international bankers secretly pulling the strings of the global economy. As one widely circulated Occupy video put it: “The smallest group in America controls the money, media, and all other things. The fingerprints belong to the Jewish bankers who control Wall Street. I am against Jews who rob America. They are 1 percent who control America. President Obama is a Jewish puppet. The entire economy is Jewish. Every federal judge [on] the East Coast is Jewish.”

For those who learned at the feet of that old fraud Edward Said, the Jews are the colonialists, the European modernists inflicting capitalism and technology upon the noble savages of their imaginations. The Israeli Jews commit the double crime of insisting upon being Jews and refusing to be sacrificial victims. They were okay, in the Left’s estimate, for about five minutes, back when Israel’s future was assumed to be one of low-impact kibbutz socialism. History went in a different direction, and today Israel has one of the world’s most sophisticated economies.

RELATED: Hung Up on Israel: An Explanation for the Sincere

For the Jew-hater, this is maddening: Throw the Jews out of Spain, and they thrive abroad. Send them to the poorest slums in New York, and those slums stop being slums. Keep them out of the Ivy League and watch NYU become a world-class institution inspired by men such as Jonas Salk, son of largely uneducated Polish immigrants. Put the Jewish state in a desert wasteland and watch it bloom, first with produce and then with technology. Israel today has more companies listed on NASDAQ than any other country except the United States and China. The economy under Palestinian management? Olives and handicrafts, and a GDP per capita that barely exceeds that of Sudan.

The Arab–Israeli conflict is a bitter and ugly one. My own view of it is that the Palestinian Arabs have some legitimate grievances, and that I stopped caring about them when they started blowing up children in pizza shops. You can thank the courageous heroes of the Battle of Sbarro for that. Israel isn’t my country, but it is my country’s ally, and it is impossible for a liberty-loving American to fail to admire what the Jewish state has done.

And that, of course, is why the Left wants to see the Jewish state exterminated.

— Kevin D. Williamson is the roving correspondent at National Review."

about 11 hours ago


This essay examines urban planning’s recent engagement with two social movements—sustainability and social justice—and the field’s efforts to simultaneously pursue both impulses. What arises from the juxtaposition of these two lofty goals? I develop three arguments. First, rather than prematurely speaking of a convergence between environmental sustainability and social justice, planners might better approach this encounter as a productive tension of two still incongruent movements. Second, before planners can negotiate a merger of sustainability and social justice, they first ought to directly confront the political imbalance between the two: middle-class environmental interests typically trump the interests of the poor and marginalized, too often leading to an exclusionary sustainability of privilege rather than a sustainability of inclusion. Third, despite the perhaps inevitable criticisms of immeasurability and vagueness, sustainability has endured as a central principle in urban planning because its oppositional engagement with social justice and economic development continually reinvigorates sustainability planning, keeps the term relevant and inclusive, and grants the task of urban planning greater urgency.

Proponents of sustainability frequently emphasize the importance of adding social justice to their efforts, while social justice advocates increasingly incorporate the ideas of sustainability into their own agendas. These bilateral efforts might suggest a convergence of two political movements—a coming marriage of environmental and social politics. But such integration won’t be an easy or automatic process: each of the two movements has its own distinct histories and trajectories, deeply embedded in disparate ideologies, priorities and institutions. The sustainability and social justice movements may be coming closer together, yet much still divides them into two separate conversations that frequently overhear each other without easily merging. How do we describe the complex terrain at the confluence of the social justice movement and the sustainability movement—two movements that even separately elude simple definition? This paper analyzes the promises and obstacles of combining social justice and environmental sustainability using the example of urban planning research and practice, a case study that may well speak to other disciplines.

Five years ago, the faculty of the University of Michigan’s Urban and Regional Planning Program formally identified sustainability and social justice as the two central ideas to organize teaching and target new directions for collaborative research."

about 11 hours ago


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Deconstructing Memory and History: The Jewish Military Union (ZZW) and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, March 21, 2006
Filed Under: International Law, World Jewry

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Jewish Political Studies Review 18:1-2 (Spring 2006)

The Warsaw Ghetto uprising remains one of the best-known chapters of the Shoah, and the heroism of the insurgents continues to inspire. However, scholarly treatment of the Zydowski Zwiazek Wojskowy or Jewish Military Union, which was founded in the ghetto by elements of the Zionist Revisionist Movement, is still incomplete. Revisionist circles especially have long claimed that the ideological rivals of the ZZW have deliberately prevented its enshrinement in the national pantheon. Although there is validity to that charge, the reality is more complex and nuanced. Establishing the ZZW’s rightful place in the historical narrative will require a thorough deconstruction of the existing historiography and, in particular, the shadowy Polish sources that have figured so prominently in its evolution.

Simcha “Kazik” Rotem, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, recounts in his memoirs that in the spring of 1944 – a year after the ghetto revolt but some months before the outbreak of the general uprising – the survivors of the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ZOB) or Jewish Combat Organization, the mainstream resistance group that drew support across most party lines, had gathered in an apartment in Warsaw to record their experiences. That information was later transmitted to party comrades in Palestine and elsewhere.

One of the most important activities of the ZOB was documentation. Its leaders had a strong sense of history and felt that they were the last remaining Jews. Hence they assumed the responsibility to preserve, and to tell, the story of Polish Jewry in the “days of destruction and revolt.” Many accounts were written in that ZOB apartment; Yitzhak Zuckerman, alias “Antek,” was the group’s life force, devoted to collecting the accounts. 1

Indeed, for many of those who survived, the task of recounting the story of what they had undergone was treated as a sacred obligation for future generations. And well before the war was over, the first documentation filtered out of Poland and the first publications on the subject appeared.

Of course, it would have been naïve to expect that adherents of a movement deeply rooted in a particular political ideology who had seen their compatriots suffer and die, would suddenly rise above all parochial considerations in telling their story.2 Naturally they sought to glorify the memory of their fallen comrades-in-arms, even if it was at the expense of historical accuracy and balance. For the most part, they were not professional historians but eyewitnesses to, and actors in, an extraordinary drama. Hence, it quickly became evident that the various factions that had fought in the ghetto were jockeying for their place in history. This was true among the survivors themselves as well as the representatives of their movements outside Poland."

Apr 30, 16

"Perhaps the most famous manuscript in the whole Kaufmann Collection is the so-called Kaufmann Haggadah (MS Kaufmann A 422). 181 It was produced in 14th century Catalonia. The first scholars to study it considered this manuscript to be of Italian origin. Subsequent research, however, traced its origins to Catalonia. 182 It contains the prayers, poems and narrative texts to be recited on the eve of the festival of the Jewish Easter, Pesach, the Feast of the Passover, 183 in which the participants recall the joy of deliverance from servitude in Egypt, thanking God for his miraculous works. 184 In the 11-15th centuries Haggadahs were not infrequently produced for private, family use – the Kaufmann manuscript also bears the marks of almost excessive use.

Both in the Kaufmann Haggadah and the Sarajevo Haggadah there are conspicuous traces of children's drawings, a fact no doubt indicative of the considerable popularity of these manuscripts among children, which can also be explained, to a certain extent at least, by the important part children play in the traditional rite of Passover. 185 In view of this there can hardly be imagined a sadder scene than when one of the sons of the family appeared at the Sephardic elementary school in Sarajevo with one of the family's most treasured possessions, something they had owned perhaps for a considerable period, forced now to sell it because of straitened circumstances occasioned by the sudden death of their father: the lavishly illuminated manuscript became known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. 186 It may have been in a similar straitened situation that that the Schwarz family parted with the splendid, illuminated Mahzor executed in France around 1300, which they had possessed since 1702 and which was still in their possession in Miskolc, Hungary, in the 1950s. The family later emigrated to Canada and there they sold the priceless manuscript. 187

We can see in our mind's eye the father who is all too fond of showing his children the splendid illustrations, both on the festival itself and at other times too. Young and old alike gather around him after dinner in order to enjoy the paintings: children play a central role in the rite of Passover and what else can arouse their interest but splendid pictures? 188 They are gazing spellbound at the marvellous illustration depicting the Exodus from Egypt: the bearded Moses in his pointed red hat with a feather is leading the Jews, who are carrying dough wrapped in cloths over their shoulders (Ex 12:34-35). On the left an Egyptian city lying on their way can be seen (Baal Zephon? cf. Ex 14:2), its gates closed while from above the inhabitants watch the Jews passing by and knocking on the gates, while a dog wearing a crimson neckband is standing in the foreground. The figure of the dog, which seems to have been treated very well in recent times, is an allusion to the passage: “But against the children of Israel no dog shall stick out its tongue” (Ex 11:7). 189 The exact meaning of the expression is not quite clear, it seems to mean something like “to stick the tongue out, to threat someone.” Our illustration apparently follows the traditional interpretation going back to Rashi quoted above: the dog's tongue seems to be missing. 190"

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Apr 30, 16

"Party members assumed they were the good guys, incapable of prejudice. But now Ken Livingstone and Naz Shah have laid bare the left’s capacity for racism
Labour rose twined round star of Israel
‘They don’t need to question their assumptions, or take a long hard look in the mirror, because the racists are the other guys.’ Illustration: Ben Jennings

Thursday 28 April 2016 15.41 EDT
Last modified on Thursday 28 April 2016 18.58 EDT

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Actually, you’re just like a concentration camp guard. You’re just doing it because you’re paid to, aren’t you?” If you’re Jewish, and live in London, you might dimly recall those words. But if not, here’s a clue. They were spoken to a Jewish reporter a decade ago by the man who today indignantly described himself as having fought a lifelong battle against discrimination – shortly before being suspended from the Labour party for potentially bringing it into disrepute with clumsy references to Hitler.
Ken Livingstone suspended from Labour after Hitler remarks
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Rereading the transcript of that 2005 exchange between Ken Livingstone and a hapless Evening Standard reporter today, what takes the breath away isn’t the rather tasteless suggestion from London’s then mayor that anyone working for a paper whose owners he disliked was probably “a German war criminal” in a previous life. It’s that when the reporter explained he was Jewish and was offended by the Nazi reference, Livingstone didn’t stop. He doubled down on the concentration camp stuff, took his spade and kept digging. And he got away with it. There were calls for his resignation, of course, but he got away with it.

He carried on being mayor for another two years, and has carried on ever since being feted by people who would have bayed for the blood of any Tory making racially insensitive remarks to a black reporter. He went on blithely to suggest that Jews have stopped voting Labour because they’re rich, and still didn’t really seem to see what the problem was; but then, he was surrounded by people who didn’t seem to want to see the problem either.

And that’s one explanation for how a politician as naturally gifted as Livingstone could ever think it a good idea to summon Hitler as a witness for the defence, when defending his party against allegations of antisemitism.

Perhaps he has simply lost sight of how it looks, outside the circles – once fringe, now mainstream in the Labour party – in which he moves. You could see today’s extraordinary day of bloodletting – which saw first the suspension of the Labour MP Naz Shah for pre-election Facebook posts suggesting Israel be forcibly transported to the US, and then that of Livingstone for only making matters worse – simply as payback for all the times someone got away with it. Fail to challenge dubious attitudes and they quickly seep into the mainstream.

The ferocity of the backlash against Livingstone from the party is a measure of MPs’ deep frustration and shame

But there is another possible explanation, and that’s the belief found close to many leftwing hearts that they, and they alone, are the good guys – the champions of equality and fairness – and therefore incapable of prejudice. They don’t need to question their assumptions, or take a long hard look in the mirror, because the racists are the other guys.

As Ken explained in injured tones to the BBC’s Martha Kearney today, real racism is when you’re rude to your neighbour’s face in Stoke Newington, which he’d never do. And anyway, racists would hardly be attracted to Labour, would they? To which one could almost hear his colleagues screaming at the radio; well if they weren’t before, mate, they might now.

The ferocity of the backlash against Livingstone from left to right of the party is a measure of MPs’ deep frustration and shame that a party that prides itself on fighting discrimination should have come to this. It’s not about factional infighting any more, rightwingers finding excuses to snipe at Jeremy Corbyn and his Stop the War mates. This is about a party trying desperately to stop itself being dragged into the gutter, and to assert values it once thought people took as read.
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Corbyn: Labour party will not tolerate antisemitism – video

There is prejudice in all parties, from the Tory golf club bores who used to mutter that Michael Howard couldn’t be leader because of what was euphemistically called his “background” to the shaven-headed thugs of the far right. But for some time now it’s been clear Labour too had a boil to lance.
The stories you need to read, in one handy email
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There were too many stories piling up; lurid although unproven allegations about Labour students using “Zio” as a routine term of abuse for Jews; a dismal string of councillors and activists peddling anti-Jewish conspiracy theories on social media; prominent Jewish leftwing figures saying they no longer felt comfortable in what the party had become. Ritual sacrifice was required.

But God, it’s depressing that it had to be Shah, on whom so many other women’s hopes were pinned after she famously survived a violent childhood, forced marriage at 15, the jailing of her mother for killing an abusive partner, and then a viciously dirty election campaign in order to reach parliament.

What a dismal way to end a career, over a motley collection of dubious posts shared on Facebook before she was elected; an “#apartheidIsrael” hashtag, some dark-sounding stuff about how the “Jews were rallying”. To be honest, I really didn’t want her to lose the whip any more than Corbyn did.

But there was no alternative, for all the reasons the frontbencher Lisa Nandy gave when she broke ranks to call for the suspension. It can’t be one rule for obscure councillors and activists and another for popular MPs. And besides, the blunt truth is that having under-reacted for so long to this creeping cancer spreading through the party, nothing but radical surgery now will do.

Some will see in this a chilling of debate over the Middle East, a silencing of pro-Palestinian voices in the Labour party. But that’s a mirror image of the eternal rightwing grumble that they’re not “allowed” to talk about immigration any more thanks to political correctness, and about as well founded.

Here’s a clue, for those confused about how to champion Palestinian rights or condemn an oppressive regime without overstepping the line: just treat Israel as you would any other country guilty of human rights abuses.

There’s nothing inherently antisemitic about seeking economic sanctions against Israel, supporting an oppressed minority’s right to self determination, condemning a government, or anything else you’d do if this was Burma.
Naz Shah row: peers accuse Labour of failing to root out antisemitism
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But calling for its people to be swept into the sea, or forcibly transplanted somewhere else, or in any other way denying Israel’s right to exist, is crossing a line because that simply doesn’t happen to other countries no matter how oppressive their regime. No other nation state on the planet is constantly asked to prove itself morally worthy merely of being allowed to exist.

We don’t argue that the civilian population of Syria, or 1930s Germany for that matter, should have been forcibly removed from their homes and their nation states obliterated because of abuses committed by governments and condoned by some if not all of their citizens. Activists direct their fire at governments and political movements, people with the power to change. But there’s an uglier name for those who single out and target a race, religion or group of people; who talk about “the Jews” in a way they’d never talk about “the blacks”.

The wider lesson from Labour meanwhile, from what has been a dark and depressing week even by current standards, is that the trust of minorities is not given as of right to progressive parties but must be earned. For too long, Labour hasn’t done enough to deserve it."

Apr 30, 16

"Why a British Fight Over Israel and Anti-Semitism Matters to the Rest of Us
Robert Mackey
Apr. 29 2016, 4:05 p.m.

At first glance, the heated argument two members of the British Labour Party conducted in front of reporters’ iPhones on Thursday, sparked by accusations that one of their colleagues posted anti-Semitic comments on Facebook, seems like a story of interest mainly to political junkies in London.

When the debate is unpacked, however, it becomes clear that what’s at stake is something much broader: whether critics of Israel, who question its government’s policies or its right to exist as a Jewish state, are engaged in a form of coded anti-Semitism. That matters because attempts to disqualify all critics of Israel as racists are widespread across the globe.

In the United States, for instance, supporters of a movement to boycott Israel until it grants Palestinians full civil rights have recently been condemned as anti-Semites by Hillary Clinton; last month, the University of California, adopted a policy on discrimination that implies anti-Semitism is behind opposition to Zionism, the political ideology asserting that the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in historic Palestine.

But how did this issue come to dominate the political debate in Britain, a week before important local elections?

The uproar in began on Tuesday, when Paul Staines, a right-wing political blogger who writes as Guido Fawkes, reported that a Labour member of Parliament, Naseem Shah, had shared a Facebook meme in 2014 suggesting that Israelis should “relocate” en masse to the United States.

As Shah scrambled to explain and apologize, pointing out that she endorsed the meme “before I was elected as an MP” and “at the height of the Gaza conflict in 2014, when emotions were running high,” Staines uncovered two more anti-Israel comments she posted on Facebook that same summer.

One of Shah’s Facebook posts, from late July, 2014, pointed to an article by a former deputy prime minister, John Prescott, who argued that Israeli air strikes on Gaza that month were “so brutally disproportionate and so grossly indiscriminate” as to constitute “war crimes.” At the time, Shah urged her Facebook followers to voice their agreement with Prescott in an online poll at the foot of the page since, she said, “The Jews are rallying to the poll at the bottom and there is now 87% disagreeing.”

In another Facebook update discovered by Staines, Shah had added the comment #APARTHEID ISRAEL to a repurposed meme created by an American Tea Party group. The meme displays a mugshot of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taken after his arrest during the 1956 Montgomery bus boycott above a quote from his 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The words are part of King’s justification for breaking unjust laws through civil disobedience: “never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal.'”

The meme, clearly intended in its original form to equate Obama to Hitler — and so justify disobeying American laws considered tyrannical by the far-right — was used by Shah to suggest something else: that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is akin to the way Nazi Germany treated its Jewish population and Apartheid-era South Africa subjugated black Africans. (The meme also omits what comes next in King’s letter: “It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.”)

Staines, who functions like an opposition researcher for conservative causes, correctly reported that Shah had compared Israel to Hitler’s Germany. But as the story spread across the British press, several journalists mistakenly referred to the meme as evidence Shah had claimed Hitler’s persecution of the Jews was not objectionable because it was legal.

In the context of British politics, the timing could not have been worse, coming just a week before local elections and amid an investigation into allegations that Oxford University’s student Labour club had supported Israeli Apartheid Week on campus because of what one former member called “some kind of problem with Jews.”

One Labour activist, Jon Lansman, told the BBC that he suspected Conservative opposition researchers had been “trawling Twitter feeds and Facebook pages looking for evidence which has been stored until a week before the local elections and the London mayor elections.”

Shah, who is of Pakistani Muslim origin, apologized at greater length on Wednesday, in print and in the House of Commons, acknowledging that “referring to Israel and Hitler as I did is deeply offensive to Jewish people.” She was also suspended by the party. Still, some of her colleagues continued to defend her.

Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, denied that Shah’s posts were anti-Semitic in a BBC radio interview on Thursday. “She’s a deep critic of Israel and its policies,” Livingstone said. “Her remarks were over the top but her remarks were not anti-Semitic.”

Livingstone, whose far-left politics and affection for his pet newts have made him a figure of ridicule for the right-leaning press for decades, added that he was defending his colleague because of a wider principle. “There’s been a very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticizes Israeli policy as anti-Semitic,” he told the BBC. “I had to put up with 35 years of this.”

But when he was asked why Shah’s use of the meme about Hitler was not anti-Semitic, Livingstone veered off-topic, into an over-simplified and misleading account of German history that enraged many of his own colleagues. “Let’s remember, when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel — he was supporting Zionism,” Livingstone claimed. “This was before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”

Within minutes, as Livingstone’s comments were reported in shorthand as “Hitler was a Zionist,” senior members of his party, including Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate in next week’s London mayoral election, called for him to be expelled for what sounded like an absurd attempt to smear Israel by numbering history’s most infamous anti-Semite among the ranks of its supporters.

Then, as he was walking along the street, and conducting another radio interview by phone, Livingstone was suddenly confronted by John Mann, a Labour MP who has been lauded for his work by the American Jewish Committee for his leadership of a parliamentary group fighting anti-Semitism.

That exchange, which made for riveting viewing, started with Mann calling his colleague “a disgusting Nazi apologist,” for suggesting that Hitler had supported efforts to establish a Jewish state in Palestine during his 1932 election campaign. As Mann stressed, Hitler had, in fact, derided Zionists as charlatans in his 1925 memoir, “Mein Kampf,” arguing that a Palestinian Jewish state would be just a haven for criminals bent on world domination.

Livingstone, for his part, acknowledged that “Hitler was a mad anti-Zionist, he wanted to kill all Jews,” but insisted that “his policy in ’32, when he won that election, was to deport Germany’s Jews to Israel, and the Zionist movement had secret meetings with his administration talking about that.” Mann, Livingstone said, should “check your history.”

Although the expulsion of German Jews to Palestine was certainly a trope of Nazi literature, Hitler was not, of course, elected in 1932 because he promised to move Jews to Israel, a state that would not exist until 16 years later and be populated, in part, by survivors of the Holocaust.

The vile things the Nazis were actually saying about the Jews that year is captured in a chilling propaganda pamphlet produced by Goebbels which called for “A solution to the Jewish question,” through “the systematic elimination of foreign racial elements from public life in every area.” A Nazi government, the platform said, would introduce “a sanitary separation between Germans and non-Germans on racial grounds exclusively, not on nationality or even religious belief.” There was no endorsement of the Zionist project or plan to expel German Jews there.

So what was Livingstone talking about? He appears to have been using “Hitler” as shorthand for the Nazi government and referring to a real instance of cooperation between Germany and the Zionist movement that began in 1933 — an episode Livingstone discussed at length in his 2011 memoir, “You Can’t Say That.” Just months after Hitler came to power, in 1933, the Zionist-led Jewish Agency in British-administered Palestine did strike an agreement with the Nazis to facilitate the emigration of about 20,000 German Jews to Palestine over the next decade. As the Israeli historian Tom Segev described it in his book, “The Seventh Million,”

The haavara (“transfer”) agreement — the Hebrew term was used in the Nazi documents as well — was based on the complementary interests of the German government and the the Zionist movement: the Nazis wanted the Jews out of Germany; the Zionists wanted them to come to Palestine.

Segev notes that the agreement, which remained in force until the middle of World War II, was a point of contention between the Zionist leadership in Tel Aviv and Jewish leaders in the United States, who still hoped in 1933 that an international economic and diplomatic boycott of Germany could “force the Nazis to halt their persecution, so that Jews could continue to live in Germany.”

(Given the current furore in London, it is interesting to note that Segev presents evidence in another book, “One Palestine, Complete,” that the senior British officials who committed their government to the creation of a Jewish homeland in 1917 were, “in many cases, anti-Semitic.” Those officials, Segev argued, agreed to help the Zionists, because of they had embraced anti-Semitic conspiracy theories so fully that “They believed the Jews controlled the world.”)

In his book, Livingstone recounts learning of this history from “Zionism in the Age of Dictators,” by the Jewish-American activist and writer Lenni Brenner. That book, which was published in Britain because Brenner could not find an American imprint, also described a 1937 visit to Palestine by a Nazi official, Adolf Eichmann, when the SS briefly considered and then rejected the idea of deporting Germany’s Jews there. “Brenner’s book helped form my view of Zionism and its history,” Livingstone wrote, “and so I was not going to be silenced by smears of anti-Semitism wherever I criticized Israeli government policies.”

In a phone interview on Friday, Brenner told The Intercept that he has been friends with Livingstone since a U.K. book tour in 1983. He added that he was certain that when the former mayor said Hitler “was supporting Zionism,” that was “shorthand for ‘the Nazis supported'” the Zionist project in 1933 through the haavara agreement, which also permitted the transfer of some Jewish wealth to Palestine. “A German Jew would give money to the Nazi government,” Brenner explained, “the Nazi government would then send German goods to Palestine, where the Zionists would sell them, then give most of the money to the German Jew when he arrived in Palestine.”

“Hitler had to know some of that,” Brenner argued, “you don’t do things like that in a dictatorship without the dictator knowing — and on so central an issue to them as the Jews.”

In subsequent television interviews on Thursday, Livingstone tried to avoid questions about Hitler and return to his argument that Shah’s criticism of Israel was not anti-Semitic.

“We can’t confuse criticizing the government of Israel with anti-Semitism,” he told the BBC. “If you’re anti-Semitic, you hate Jews — not just the ones in Israel, you hate your neighbor in Golder’s Green, or your neighbor in Stoke Newington. It’s a deep personal loathing, like racism. And one of my worries is that this confusion of anti-Semitism with criticizing Israeli government policy undermines the importance of tackling real anti-Semitism — the attacks that are made on Jews.”

After that interview, as he made his way out of the BBC’s Milbank Studios in London, Livingstone was surrounded by reporters, including the BBC’s John Sweeney, demanding to know why he brought up Hitler in the first place.

It seemed like a fair question, but Livingstone, who was suspended by his party later in the day, tried to dodge it, by claiming that he was just responding to a question about Shah’s Facebook post. In reality, it seems fair to say that Livingstone was trying to discredit Zionism as a form of extreme nationalism by reminding listeners that its leaders had once cooperated with Hitler’s government. As an ardent defender of Palestinian rights, Livingstone comes from a part of the British left that supported the effort to have Zionism condemned “as a movement based on racial superiority” at a United Nations conference on racism in Durban, South Africa in 2001.

While that language was never adopted, thanks in part to pressure from the United States and Israel, there remains a lot of sympathy for the position in Britain today. According to Jim Waterson, BuzzFeed UK’s politics editor, on Thursday night, the top comments on the Facebook pages of almost every major British news organization were “very, very strongly pro-Ken.”

Of course, Hitler is also regularly used by Israeli officials in rhetorical attacks on their enemies, some of them displaying even less regard for historical accuracy than Livingstone.

Just five months ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu baffled historians when he claimed that, as late as November of 1941, when the Nazi leader met with an anti-Semitic Palestinian official, “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews.” Netanyahu went on to claim, despite a total lack of evidence, that it was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, who convinced Hitler to “burn” rather than simply expel the German Reich’s Jewish population, out of fear that they would emigrate en masse to Palestine.

Like Livingstone, Netanyahu brought up Hitler, or a fictional version of Hitler, to help make a broader argument. In this case, to support the claim, regularly put forth by his government, that Palestinian hatred and violence is in no way a reaction to any Israeli action, but simply an expression of a pathological hatred of Jews by Muslim fanatics equal to if not greater than that of the Nazis and their European collaborators.

In response to Netanyahu’s bizarre “fairytale about Hitler,” which strangely dovetails with Livingstone’s, Tom Segev observed in the Guardian:

The mufti’s support for Nazi Germany definitely demonstrated the evils of extremist nationalism. However, the Arabs were not the only ones who were seeking a deal with the Nazis. At the end of 1940 and again at the end of 1941, before the Holocaust reached its height in the extermination camps, a small Zionist terrorist organization – Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, also known as the Stern Gang – made contact with Nazi representatives in Beirut, hoping for support for the struggle against the British. One of the Sternists, in a British jail at the time, was Yitzhak Shamir, a future Israeli prime minister.

Top Photo: Ken Livingstone was surrounded by reporters on Thursday as he left a BBC studio in London.

Apr 30, 16

"For our last Passover entrée, I am going to share with you a very special fish recipe courtesy of my husband’s nephew’s wife, Sharone. Sharone is Sephardic Jew with Moroccan ancestry. She also happens to be a very talented cook; her Mediterranean-influenced dishes are always healthy and tasty.

According to Sharone, it’s customary in many Sephardic families to eat fish every Friday night for Erev Shabbat. Her family was very traditional, so growing up they would always eat fish on Friday night. While the type of fish would change from week to week, the basic method of preparation was always the same. Sharone’s little girl nicknamed this recipe “Maman’s Fish”—Maman is what she calls her grandmother, Sharone’s mom, who taught her the recipe. I like this name, so I have taken to calling it that as well.

Apr 30, 16

"A portrait of Richard Theodore Greener, the first African-American graduate of Harvard, has been unveiled and added to the Harvard Foundation’s portraiture collection. (There are now 16 portraits of exceptional grads in the collection.) Commissioned in 2014, the portrait of Greener, who graduated from Harvard in 1870, was painted by Steve Coit and will be on display in Annenberg Hall along with a painting of Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard in 1665. Greener won the Bowden prize for elocution in his sophomore and senior years at Harvard. He went on to teach at the University of South Carolina, where he later earned a law degree. He served as a diplomat in the administrations of presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt."

Apr 30, 16

The multiple truths of the Labour antisemitism story
Adam Ramsay 29 April 2016

The fact that there is a smear campaign against Corbyn's Labour doesn't mean there isn't real antisemitism.

Ken Livingstone, image, the World Economic Forum, Creative Commons 2.0

The world is complex and it contains multitudes. Thus, it is possible for all of the following things to be true:

1) There are some people on the left, and therefore too many, who are antisemitic. When running a workshop at the Occupy camp, for example, a participant said to me that those to blame for the financial crisis were ‘the Jews’. At this year's NUS conference, someone gave a speech against Holocaust memorial day, arguing that it was exclusive. Some people cheered.

2) Criticism of the state of Israel is not the same thing as antisemitism, and, worse, conflation of the state of Israel with Jewishness, whoever it is done by, sails close to an antisemitic wind. Unfortunately, this line is often intentionally blurred by those campaigning for the state of Israel, as well as sometimes by those campaigning against it.

3) Sometimes, criticism of the state of Israel, by using terms like 'Zionist' as a dog-whistle proxy for 'Jew', can be antisemitic or perpetuate antisemitic ideas. For example, there is a spectrum of statements running from “AIPAC is a powerful lobby in the USA” (not antisemitic) through to “a secret cabal of Zionists controls the media” (antisemitic). It’s not always clear where this line has been crossed.

4) There are some people on the left who repeat antisemitic tropes, without entirely understanding that they are doing so, who thus behave in antisemitic ways without necessarily 'being' antisemitic.

5) There is a specific form of antisemitism more prevalent on the left, which focuses on 'bankers', 'Rothschilds', etc.

6) Those things need to be challenged and require education.

7) The left is held to a significantly higher standard than the right. For example, the Tories can run a racist campaign for London Mayor, and it is still Labour who are having a racism scandal.

8) Ken Livingstone's comments were shocking, and it was appropriate to suspend him. Specifically:

i) He said: "a real antisemite doesn't just hate the Jews in Israel, they hate their Jewish neighbour in Golders Green or in Stoke Newington. It's a physical loathing.” This is a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of racism, in a dangerous way. Hating a subcategory of Jewish people based on where they live (rather than, say, hating people for doing particular things) is still antisemitism. Denying that plays into the hands of racists.

This gets to the nub of the whole thing. If you, as we all should be, are angry at the policies of the Israeli state, that doesn't make you in any way antisemitic. It makes you a human who has been paying attention. But if that rage seeps over into 'the Jews of Israel', then that is a form of antisemitism.

ii) The specific claim about Hitler wanting an Israeli state is largely historically true, in a narrow sense. Lots of people have been sharing an article laying that out, as though it vindicates the comment. It doesn’t. The speed with which conversations about anything relating to Jewishness in politics returns to something relating to the man who murdered the parents or grandparents of many of the Jewish people around today must be deeply hurtful for huge numbers. It's generally not appropriate to turn such conversations to Hitler and Nazis without a very compelling reason. Similarly, the specific point is also one often used by hard antisemites to argue that Jewish people were 'in cahoots' with Hitler. As such, it's probably best avoided, unless you have the time and space to deal with it sensitively. This isn't an abstract theoretical argument about history, it's a discussion about people's lived experience of ‘othering’ today. And that’s before we engage with what he meant by ‘before he went mad’.

iii) There is another debate to be had about whether Livingstone’s comments were antisemitic. I have seen lots of people argue that they weren’t – ‘what he was trying to say…’. I think that’s a different question, which can be discussed more calmly over time. They were clearly inappropriate.

9) The (white) Tory mayor of London can one week say that the US president hates the UK because he is half Kenyan (and, implicitly therefore, that Kenyans hate the UK, meanwhile focusing on a racist trope about Obama somehow not being really American), and face no expectation of discipline from his party; a (black, Muslim) Labour MP can have in the past made comments which are perhaps of equivalent levels of racism, and faces loud demands that she is immediately sacked.

10) Her comments were indeed antisemitic, as she has acknowledged.

11) The same journalists demanding that said MP is sacked can repeatedly mock the (Jewish) former leader of the Labour party for how he looks when eating a bacon sandwich, but anyone who suggested this was problematic was shouted down.

12) As Jamie Stern-Weiner has shown, there seems to be no evidence that antisemitism in the Labour party has increased since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. In fact, many of the incidents which are being used to attack him seem to have taken place before he was leader, or are online comments from people who joined the Labour party before he ran for leader.

13) Each alleged incident of antisemitism in the Labour party has been dealt with quickly, yet the party is still being accused of moving too slowly.

14) Allegations of antisemitism in the Labour party are being used by numerous enemies of the party leadership to undermine it.

15) The Labour party could and should do more to stop antisemitism within its ranks. So should every other political party.

16) Israel is an apartheid state. Its government brutally oppresses the Palestinian people, murders children in cold blood, steals land and water and uses torture, including of children and teenagers, as standard. As the movement against its violent oppression continues, particularly through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, it is increasingly finding ways to accuse its critics of antisemitism, often in spurious ways.

17) The right has a problem with Islamophobia, and this is treated by much of the media as though it is essentially not a problem.

18) Accusations of racism should be listened to, and taken seriously.

19) Exploitation of accusations of racism for other political ends undermines the fight against racism.

20) It’s possible to suffer oppression whilst also doing something wrong. It probably is true that Lutfur Rahman faced Islamophobia at the same time as being corrupt, and that if he hadn't been Muslim, he may have got away with the corruption. Neither the corruption, not the Islamophobia excuse each other. Likewise, it can be true that people who are both Jewish and apologists for the state of Israel face antisemitic oppression at the same time as they argue for a murderous apartheid state. Likewise, neither action excuses the other.

21) As James McAsh has argued, antisemitism which exists on the left will be best dealt with by the left when it is not being weaponised against the left. If you throw rocks at people, they dig trenches rather than having open conversations.

22) John Mann is a thug and a political opportunist who is using antisemitism as a platform to continue his life-long campaign against the left of the Labour party. His opportunistic attack against Ken Livingstone at the moment is forceful because there is truth in it.

23) The timing of this affair has more to do with an attempt to damage Corbyn before the May elections than the timing of any antisemitic incident, but Ken Livingstone's escalation has made the attack particularly potent."

Apr 30, 16

"Palestine and Nazi Germany
by Sara Reguer

Francis R. Nicosia. The Third Reich and the Palestine Question. Austin: Texas University Press, 1985. xiv, 319 pages.

The relationship between Nazi Germany and the Palestine Question of the 1930s is widely misunderstood. Except for a few scholars here and there, this subject lends itself to a pervasive kind of misconception: we tend to read the Nazi policies of World War II back into the 1930s. The Nazis' "Final Solution of the Jewish Question," their pro-Arab attitudes, and their battle against Great Britain makes it difficult for most of us to imagine that before the war the Nazis, even the SS, aided the illegal immigration of Jews into Palestine, and that Hitler so feared British displeasure that he absolutely prohibited German support for the Arabs of the Palestine mandate. Yet this is exactly what Francis R. Nicosia has described and proved in his excellent scholarly study.

Nicosia clearly shows in his impressive introductory chapter that Germany's policy on Palestine remained unchanged from the late Empire through the Weimar Republic. German policy makers supported Zionist efforts because they recognized that Zionism could be an effective instrument of German foreign policy. During the 1930s, the Nazis continued this traditional policy because they wanted to use Zionism and please the British.

Nicosia wants "to provide a comprehensive analysis of National Socialist attitudes towards Zionism from the early years of the movement to World War II (p. 17). To do so, Nicosia had to examine the formative years of the Nazi movement, where ideological hostility toward the creation of a Jewish state (derived from the conspiratorial vision of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion) clashed with the ideological commitment to promote Jewish emigration for the creation of a judenreines Germany. This conflict between different aspects of the same Nazi ideology existed for about two decades, from the founding of the movement in the early 1920s until the beginning of World War II.

In the summer of 1933, soon after assuming power, Hitler's government signed the Haavara Transfer Agreement with Zionist representatives. It reflected Germany's battle against unemployment and depressed agricultural prices as well as the Nazi party's goal of forcing the Jews to leave the country. The agreement made possible the emigration of large numbers of Jews, and it also opened Palestine and the Middle East to German exports. Large-scale immigration of Jews to Palestine and the development of the country by the Zionists made this British mandate a likely candidate for German industrial goods; at the same time the agreement would undermine the worldwide boycott against German goods.

I found Nicosia's discussion of the intra-Jewish divisions of particular interest. The non-Zionists opposed the Haavara Agreement because they hoped that the boycott would pressure the Nazis to restore Jewish rights. In contrast, "most Zionists worked from the premise that the Jewish position in Germany was irrevocably lost and that emigration to Palestine was their only option" (p. 41). But the Zionist position was not unanimous; there were also Zionists who opposed any form of cooperation with Germany because they wanted to force her to change her anti-Jewish policies.

This schism between Zionists and non-Zionists and within the Zionists ranks resembles the clash of views that took place in 1937 after the Peel Commission to Palestine recommended the partition of the Mandate into a large Arab and a tiny Jewish state. The nonZionists as a body came out against the State. The Zionists split over this issue: one group refused the proposed state because it was too small; another was ready to accept any state, regardless of size, because any state was better than no state. This pragmatic group in the end convinced all others when it accepted the idea of partition but not the recommended boundaries.1 This pragmatic group of Zionists had also wanted to save as many German Jews as possible and had thus been willing to sign the Haavara Agreement even if they had to deal with the devil to gain this goal.

As a result of the Haavara Agreement, German exports to Palestine increased so rapidly that by 1937 Germany had moved into first position among countries exporting to Palestine, exceeding even Great Britain, the mandatory power. The exported goods included cement, steel girders, iron plates, aluminum, brass products, watches, photographic equipment, agricultural machinery, carbonic acid, leather, and roofing felt (see Appendix 5, pp. 208-9). Great Britain was obviously not too pleased with Germany's economic activities in Palestine. My own research, corroborated by Nicosia's findings, has shown that Great Britain actually pressured certain Palestinian Jews to cancel their orders of large German machines and to reorder them from the United Kingdom.2

Until the Peel Partition Plan of 1937 forced Germany to reexamine its policy on Palestine, the Haavara Agreement did, for a while, meet both the goals of the Nazi regime and the goals of the Zionists. This becomes clear as Nicosia explores the impact on the Palestine issue of intra-German governmental and party considerations; he also investigates the roles English and Arab nationalism played in German policy calculations.

Nicosia examines the role of the SS, and it is noteworthy that there was some cooperation between the SS and the Revisionist Zionists in the period 1933-1937. There is of course some logic to this, since the SS recognized that the Revisionists were vigorously pursuing Jewish emigration from Germany to Palestine. This too was the rationale behind the German government's support of the Zionists' agricultural retraining program; incidentally, Nicosia thoughtfully provides a map showing the distribution of the retraining centers (Appendix 11, p. 217). In retrospect, it is difficult for us to imagine that the Nazis encouraged Zionists from Palestine to enter Germany, teach Hebrew, educate German Jews about Palestine, and even display the blue and white Jewish national flag; the Revisionist Zionists even wore uniforms. Clearly this was all done for the promotion of purely German domestic and economic ends, with no concern for the Palestine situation itself.

Hitler's attitude toward the British Empire was a crucial factor determining his approach to the Palestine question. "Hitler's Englandpolitik during the 1930s was the single most important factor that influenced the attitudes and policy of his regime toward the Arab world in general and Arab aspirations in Palestine in particular" (p. 83). To support the Arab cause in Palestine would have alienated Great Britain, which saw Palestine as strategically important at a time when Hitler was trying to obtain an Anglo-German alliance. It also would have violated racial ideology by supporting an inferior race (the Arabs) against a superior race (the British).

Most Arabs never realized that the Nazis viewed them as racially inferior and that Germany was directly responsible for the increase in Jewish immigration during the 1930s. It was the Arabs, especially Palestinian Arab leaders like Haj Amin al-Husayni, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who openly made their pro-German feelings known. But Nicosia's analysis of the scholarly biographies of the Mufti shows that these biographies cannot be relied on for an accurate account of Nazi Germany's involvement in Palestine (p. 250, n. 3). Like others, I had relied on these biographies; now I must, however, agree with Nicosia's conclusion that Germany was not involved in the ArabJewish conflict in Palestine of 1936-1937.

However, I find it hard to believe, despite Nicosia's scholarly presentation, that the German Christian communities, the Palastinadeutsche, especially the Templars, were not more actively involved in propaganda, spying, and subversion. Maybe logic dictated that Nazi Germany stay out of internal Palestinian affairs in order to ensure the survival of the German communities there, a survival that depended on the protection of the British authorities. But the emotional lure of a dynamic new German Reich may well have overruled such logic for many younger German Christians.

The recommendations of the Peel Commission in 1937 set off a major policy debate in Berlin, and could have led to a reevaluation of the Haavara Agreement as well as of the policy vis-a-vis the Arabs. However, after carefully concluding that Hitler's role in the debate is difficult to assess, Nicosia states that "the available evidence indicates that Hitler opted for continued Jewish emigration from Germany to Palestine, in spite of the partition plan and the possible creation of an independent Jewish state" (p. 140). Why Hitler intervened is still an open question. Perhaps the explanation can be found in his overall foreign policy initiatives and his plans for war. His continued support of German Jewish emigration to Palestine was part of his broader efforts to complete the new racial order in Germany before the planned war for Lebensraum. One change that did take place was the assumption of control over Jewish emigration by the SS, who were responsible only to Hitler and possibly also to Goring. The SS had consistently favored Jewish emigration to Palestine and continued to do so until 1941 when the new policy of the Final Solution prevailed.3 The SS even cooperated with the Committee for Illegal Immigration, the Mossad le-Aliyah Bet, to smuggle German Jews into Palestine, despite British limitations on legal immigration.

As German expansion increased the European dimensions of the so-called Jewish problem, and as the realization grew that the millions of Jews living in Germany's new Lebensraum in the East might never fit into tiny Palestine, the idea of dumping millions of Jews on the island of Madagascar gained popularity among certain circles of German policy makers.3 Of course Germany would retain control over this huge "reservation"; however, this chimeric project was abandoned as Germany attacked the Soviet Union and launched the Final Solution.

Francis R. Nicosia's volume is a pleasure to read; he does everything that scholars are taught to do when writing scholarly monographs, but which few do in such an easy and fluid style. Using all pertinent secondary works, Nicosia based his study on a thorough exploration of German, British, American, Jewish, and Israeli archival sources; only Arabic documentation, should it exist and be accessible (something Nicosia does not tell us), is missing.

The structure of Nicosia's study is logical, arguments and conclusions are forcefully presented, and the progression from chapter to chapter is coherent. The concluding chapter provides an excellent summation, and the concluding paragraph, which recapitulates Nicosia's thesis, deserves to be cited:

Germany's Palestine policy between 1933 and 1940 was based on a fundamental acceptance of the post-World War I status quo in the Middle East. For different reasons, the Hitler regime continued in the footsteps of the various Weimar governments by identifying German interests with the postwar settlement in Palestine. That settlement embodied a growing Jewish presence and homeland in Palestine, as well as the establishment of British imperial power over Palestine and the Middle East. It also represented a denial of Arab claims to national self-determination and independence in Palestine and throughout the Middle East. Between 1933 and 1940, German policy encouraged and actively promoted Jewish emigration to Palestine, recognized and respected Britain's imperial interests throughout the Middle East and remained largely indifferent to the ideals and aims of Arab nationalism. (p. 201)


1. See Sara Reguer, "Non-Zionist Politics and the Peel Report," in Duker Festschrift, ed. Bernard Klein (New York, in press).

2. The most outstanding example was Pinchas Rutenberg, who had contracted to buy German diesel engines for his Jordan River development project; British Government pressure forced him to "buy British" instead. London, Public Records office, Colonial office Papers 733/33: Minutes, 99 Feb. 1922, and Churchill to Military Secretary, 21 Mar. 1999.

3. On the Madagascar Plan, see Christopher R. Browning, The Final Solution and the German Foreign Office (New York, 1978), pp. 35-43, and Michael R. Marrus, The Unwanted (New York, 1985), pp. 186-87."

Apr 29, 16

"I’m a professional bookbinder. Amazon's new Kindle won't put me out of business
Colin Hill Urbina

The design of books has been refined for thousands of years. It’s still the optimal way to protect, and read, stories
Bookcase in the Bodleian Libraryca. 1970-1995, Bodleian Library, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK --- A bookcase packed with leatherbound volumes in the Bodleian Library, in Oxford, England. --- Image by Adam Woolfitt/CORBIS bookshelf
There are centuries-old books in better shape than that paperback you bought last week. Photograph: Adam Woolfitt/Corbis

Friday 15 April 2016 07.30 EDT
Last modified on Tuesday 19 April 2016 13.23 EDT

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This may come as a shock to the people I meet at parties and relatives I rarely see, but as a professional bookbinder, I don’t devote a lot of thought to e-readers. Frankly, I wish everyone would stop asking me about them. No, I don’t own one. No, nobody has ever wanted me to make one for them.

It would be pretty great, too, if people would stop telling me that what I do is “a dying art”. I mean, I’m still doing it, and I’m pretty young. So just like I wasn’t concerned when e-readers first started to appear, I’m not worried that Amazon’s latest Kindle model mimics the feel of a book. That just reinforces the idea that what I do endures.

Most of my craft has been refined for millennia. The book you or I recognize as a book, the codex form, has been around since roughly the year 300 and has had a long time to be designed into an extremely useful object.

We didn’t always use books like we do now. Books used to be stored lying flat, not upright, and the titles were written on the front edges of the book, not the spine. We used to use wooden boards, crafted from beech or oak; now we use dense paper board. These things changed because we saw that they weren’t necessary or that we were using them a different way. Over a millennia of design has gone into the object that you read to your children before they fall asleep.
Kindle Oasis: Amazon's next big step towards its goal of digital paper
Read more

Your family’s Bible, your grandmother’s cookbook, your favorite childhood volume – these are all important objects, and generations of humanity have spent a lot of time thinking about how we can make it better. That Amazon’s Kindle is now mimicking this good design makes a lot of sense to me.

That’s not to say books are perfect; you’ll find that your standard airport paperback falls apart in a shockingly small amount of time. This is only because the industrial revolution happened and made it possible for books to be made very cheaply, and very quickly. Durability went out the window. But a paperback still has infinitely more battery life than a Kindle, and it will do slightly better if dropped in the bathtub.

There are books that have been around for several hundred years and still look and feel better than most commercial books made today. These were bound by women and men who built things to last.

The binding of any book I make has one overarching purpose: protect the text inside. Any flourish or decoration must, in my opinion, be in service to that purpose. I doubt a Kindle, or any e-reader, is being designed from that same perspective – the books we read for pleasure, be they analog or electronic, have become increasingly disposable. Do you even really own that text on your e-reader, or are you just licensing it? Does that even matter to you?

Some people just want to read and don’t care about books as keepsakes. I’m sure there are folks out there who are perfectly happy having to recharge their books and don’t care about not being able to easily flip through to its different sections. But I’m not now, nor have I ever been, worried about e-readers putting me out of business. I knew when the Kindle first came out that books wouldn’t go away – that the endless think pieces on the end of books were wastes of space and ink.

For those that do care about craft, art and protecting texts to pass down through the generations, nothing replaces a hand-bound masterpiece. "

Apr 29, 16

"Staggering results show three-quarters of students want to leave the NUS

14 hours ago • Paddy Baker, Editor of The Tab London
According to a Tab poll of 6,500 people

After students at 25 universities announced campaigns to disaffiliate from the NUS, we asked if you would leave. Almost 6,500 responded and a three quarters of you said yes.

73 per cent said yes, 14 per cent said no and 12 per cent replied that they didn’t know.

Malia Bouattia was voted to take the reigns as President of the NUS

After Malia Bouattia’s election last week, some of the UK’s top universities plan on holding a referendum on their membership of the NUS. Richard Brooks, Vice-President for the NUS, said:

“The only people who will suffer from disaffiliation, and there are many people who want to leave and I can understand why there are concerns, will be students and that’s because the only reason we get a seat at the table with the government is because we’re a united student movement.”

Last week’s NUS Conference was controversial. Delegates opposed to the NUS’ official recognition of Holocaust Memorial Day, fearing that it would single out and prioritise one atrocity over others. Delegates at the conference also overwhelmingly rejected calls for the adoption of One Motion, One Vote. If it had passed then the NUS President and Vice-President would have been directly elected by students rather than by delegates.

Many students fear that the track record of prominent figures within the NUS give great cause for concern. NUS President, Malia Bouattia has expressed what some have called a “violent rhetoric” towards the Jewish community, referring to the University of Birmingham as ‘Zionist outpost’. Her refusal to condemn ISIS in 2014, on grounds that it was an excuse for Islamophobia, has caused much debate about whether she could be the head representative of a nationwide movement.

It also emerged today she argued in a debate that the police force should be dismantled. She labelled them “thugs on the street”.

Many of those in favour of disaffiliation argue that individual student unions are better placed to represent the interests of their students than the wider umbrella movement. This is not unprecedented. In 2008 the Imperial College London SU decided to disaffiliate, arguing that the NUS was unable to fully represent the interests of the student body. Other student bodies, such as St. Andrews and Southampton have also decided to disaffiliate in 1975 and 2008 respectively.

It remains to be seen how the NUS leadership will respond to this vote of no confidence from the student body."

Apr 29, 16

Shifty antisemitism wars
Ben White 22 April 2016

Convened by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the Global Forum for Combatting Antisemitism has become a strategizing opportunity on how best to thwart a growing BDS campaign.

Eric Pickles MP, UK Envoy for Post Holocaust Issues speaking at Holocaust Memorial Day event, FCO, London, January 2016. Wikicommons/ FCO. Some rights reserved.In 2005, a draft, working definition of antisemitism was circulated by the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). To the dismay of its critics, the document confused genuine antisemitism with criticism of Israel, and was repeatedly, and erroneously, promoted by Israel advocacy groups as the EU definition of antisemitism.

By 2013, the EUMC’s successor body, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), had abandoned the politicised definition as unfit for purpose. Just this week, in response to a motion passed at NUS conference, the FRA explicitly denied having ever adopted the definition. Yet on March 30, Eric Pickles, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues and chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, revived the discredited definition by publishing it on the government’s website. Why?

Nine days previously, Pickles had spoken at a conference on antisemitism in Berlin, where he described the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as akin to the Nazi boycott of Jewish goods. “There’s nothing complicated to it,” he told the audience. “It’s the same thing happening 70 years later. It’s the same ideology, it’s the same language, it’s the same threats.”

So what is going on here?
Antisemitism – the socialism of fools

Antisemitism can certainly be found amongst those who claim to be Palestine solidarity activists, though the opportunism of a marginal few has consistently been condemned by mainstream solidarity groups, both here in the UK, and in North America. Twitter, of course, has made it easy for anyone to (anonymously) say whatever they want, and has drawn attention to various forms of bigotry that continue to have currency in the population at large.

More broadly, the presence of antisemites or antisemitic discourse amongst those who identify as being ‘on the Left’ is also real. The reason why antisemitism has been described as the ‘socialism of fools’ is that it purports to offer explanations for problems like inequality or economic instability which are, for many people, pressing concerns. Antisemitism, however, offers conspiracy theories in place of political analysis, and bigoted scapegoating rather than political solutions.
The ‘new antisemitism’ (again)

So what is antisemitism? Brian Klug, an international expert on antisemitism and a Senior Research Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at St. Benet's Hall, Oxford, has defined antisemitism thus: “A good, simple working definition of antisemitism, according to a broad consensus of scholars, is this: hostility towards Jews as Jews.” He continues: “It would be more accurate (if cumbersome) to define the word along these lines: a form of hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which Jews are perceived as something other than what they are. Or more succinctly: hostility towards Jews as not Jews.”

This ‘broad consensus’, however, has broken down. When Antony Lerman, Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna, first started studying antisemitism 40 years ago, there was, he tells me, “broadly speaking, a shared understanding of what antisemitism was. And Israel was hardly ever mentioned.” Today, he says, “Israel is promoted as the central recipient of antisemitic hate”, constituting nothing less than “a fundamental redefinition of antisemitism” (a topic he wrote about for openDemocracy last September).

This so-called ‘new antisemitism’ was the subject of a searing critique by Brian Klug as far back as 2004, in an important intervention published by The Nation. “The semantic question has been politicized”, wrote the Oxford academic. “This is why the definition matters. It is time to reclaim the word ‘anti-Semitism’ from the political misuses to which it is being put.”
Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism

So why is it wrong to equate anti-Zionism and antisemitism?

First, it is comparing apples and oranges. Indeed, there have always been Jews opposed to Zionism, for different reasons. See, for example, the current work of the International Jewish Anti-Zionism Network (IJAN), or the new book by US professor Dov Waxman, which, among other things, shows how it was only after the Six-Day War in 1967, “some two decades after Israel’s founding”, that “the American Jewish pro-Israel establishment was built.”

For Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a group with more than 200,000 online members and 60 chapters across the US, “equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism obscures the long history of Jewish anti-Zionism and diasporism.” According to the UK-based group Jews for Justice for Palestinians, fusing “Jewishness/Israel/Zionism” enables antisemitism to become “a weapon for imposing conformity on dissidents within the Jewish community.”

Chicago-based Rabbi Brant Rosen has described how “growing numbers of Jews” identify as anti-Zionists for “legitimate ideological reasons”, motivated “by values of equality and human rights for all human beings.” His words chime with those of a former President of Edinburgh University’s Jewish Society, who recently wrote of “the growing frustration felt by many millennial Jews about the default positioning that support for Israel receives amongst Jewish civil society organisations.”

But what about the claim that, since Zionism is simply Jewish self-determination, anti-Zionism is anti-Jewish bigotry? This is also misguided; put simply, “self-determination does not equate to statehood.” As legal scholar Michael Kearney has explained, self-determination is “less understood these days as a right to one’s own exclusive state, and more as a right to non-discrimination and to democratic participation in society.”

Israel’s supporters, however, are deliberately conflating terms such as ‘homeland’, ‘home’, ‘state’, and ‘self-determination’. The concept of a Jewish homeland is one thing; the creation and maintenance of a ‘Jewish state’, in Palestine, at the expense of its non-Jewish inhabitants, is another. The right to self-determination is never a right to colonisation, whoever is doing it.

Finally, to maintain that anti-Zionism is antisemitism is to deny the historical and contemporary reality of the Palestinians’ experience, and to dehumanise them as a people. For the Palestinians, Zionism has meant violent displacement, colonisation, and discrimination – are they ‘antisemitic’ for refusing to cheer their own dispossession? By extension, as orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor Charles H. Manekin put it recently, labelling Palestine solidarity activists as antisemitic is to imply that “the Palestinians have little justified claim to sympathy.”
The Israeli government’s war on Palestine solidarity

The conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism, and the appropriation of the fight against antisemitism as a means of combating Palestine solidarity, is perhaps best embodied by a periodic conference organised by the Israeli government. Convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the Global Forum for Combatting Antisemitism has become a talking shop and strategizing opportunity, in particular, for how to best thwart the growing BDS campaign.

In 2007, delegates discussed topics such as “pre-emptive strategies” against “academic and economic boycotts”, while at the 2009 Forum, a working group was tasked with proposing “imaginative, effective and successful solutions to counter [BDS].” Four years later, in 2013, the conference’s anti-BDS ‘task force’ produced another ‘action plan’, while in 2015, the gathering proposed that activists “pursue legislation at the local, state and federal level to constrain BDS.”

These are not just empty words. In February this year, an Israeli spokesperson admitted that the government had “stepped up our efforts directly and indirectly, dealing with friends of Israel in a variety of countries in which we have the BDS movement, fighting it with legal instruments.” As a recent AFP report put it, despairing of ever winning “the battle for public support” in many countries, “Israel has instead increasingly focused on measures limiting BDS legally.”

This year, the Israeli government budgeted NIS 100 million to fighting the boycott movement, and has boasted of its plans to use cyber-tech in its efforts to undermine Palestine solidarity activism and BDS. This comes five years after Israel passed a domestic anti-boycott law, described as “the silencing and the restriction of legitimate protest to criticise and act to change Israeli policy.”

Israel’s allies have picked up the baton, including in the UK, where support for BDS and Palestinian rights has grown considerably amongst political parties, trade unions, faith communities, human rights groups, and on campuses. In the Israeli embassy in London, a ‘battle’ map hangs on the wall showing “the deployment of pro-Israel activists and the location of the ‘enemy forces’.”
Willing UK accomplices

The Israeli government’s counter-offensive has found willing accomplices in the Conservative government, with ministers seeking to deter local councils from taking ethical investment and procurement decisions that they are in fact entitled to make. These efforts are the ‘soft end’ of a wave of repression that, as documented by Amnesty International, has seen Palestinian human rights defenders, including BDS activists, threatened and intimidated by Israeli authorities.

In Britain, the target of the current crackdown is broader than just BDS: the very legitimacy of Palestine solidarity activism is at stake. On March 22, the Board of Deputies of British Jews president Jonathan Arkush told the Daily Mail that “this is not about criticism of Israel – every country can be subject to criticism.” This has become a clichéd talking-point by proponents of the ‘new antisemitism’; that mere criticism of Israel does not constitute antisemitism.

Yet a few weeks earlier, Arkush had admonished David Cameron for having issued a very mild rebuke to Israeli settlements, claiming that it had made “many” in Britain’s Jewish community “concerned and uncomfortable.” Last year, as then-vice-president, Arkush had urged another Board official not to even “criticise the government of Israel.”

In other words, this is a much broader assault on political freedoms and the right of Palestinians and their allies to campaign against Israeli violations of international law. ‘Of course, mere criticism of Israeli policies isn’t antisemitic’, say those who never actually criticise Israel, ‘but – why are you singling out Israel?’

Lerman is worried about the impact of this strategy by the Israeli government and its allies. “Given the misery and murder that antisemitism has caused over the centuries,” he notes, “one might expect pro-Israel groups to be more circumspect before using it indiscriminately as a political tool.” According to Lerman, “not everything that offends Jewish sensibilities is antisemitism”, and by labelling BDS as antisemitic, Israel advocates “are draining the word of any meaning.”
Targeting Corbyn’s Labour Party: a convergence of interests

On February 15, the co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) resigned his position, in response to OULC deciding to endorse Israeli Apartheid Week (a telling trigger). Shortly afterwards, and for a period of roughly a month, the media reported a number of cases where Labour members were alleged to have been guilty of antisemitic remarks, predominantly on social media.

Corbyn’s political opponents and their friends in the media, saw an opportunity: the Daily Mail declared Corbyn to be “a long-standing supporter of the terrorist organisation Hamas”, while Boris Johnson urged Londoners to vote Tory in the mayoral contest, citing Labour’s antisemitism “cancer.” In mid-March, The Jewish Chronicle declared that Labour “attracts antisemites like flies to a cesspit.”

The Labour Party has more than 400 MPs and peers at Westminster, in addition to almost 7,000 local government officials and some 390,000 members. The antisemitism ‘crisis’ has involved half a dozen individuals, most of whom have either never held, or no longer hold elected office. Corbyn himself has repeatedly condemned antisemitism since becoming leader, while according to Party General Secretary Iain McNicol, everyone reported for antisemitism has been suspended or excluded.

Getting a problem in perspective is not the same as denying that any problem exists (by definition). As Richard Kuper, spokesperson of Jews for Justice for Palestinians tells me, “there is some antisemitism in and around the Labour party – as there is in the wider society in Britain”, a problem made worse by “increased use of social media.”

However, Kuper said, “there is clearly also a coordinated, willed and malign campaign to exaggerate the nature and extent of antisemitism as a stick to beat the Labour party” under Corbyn. Ian Saville, a founder of the ‘Jews for Jeremy’ Facebook page, agrees, saying he is “disturbed” by the way antisemitism has “been taken up as a proxy with which to attack the left in the Labour Party.”

As Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, member of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG), tells me: “This is not about whether we should be dealing firmly with antisemitism - of course we should - but how antisemitism is defined.” This politicised redefining of antisemitism should worry us all: it dehumanises Palestinians and delegitimises solidarity, imperils the fight against real antisemitism, and constitutes a much broader attack on our democracy and political freedoms.
About the author

Ben White is a journalist, writer and analyst, contributing to Middle East Monitor, Newsweek Middle East, Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye, and others. He is the author of two books on Palestine/Israel, both with Pluto Press.

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